Sister Farley’s revenge

UPDATE: see below

Nothing like having your book “banned” to make sales according to the Washington Post :

From papyrus to vellum to paper to e-books, two principles of publishing have not changed over the centuries:

1. Churches can’t resist the temptation to condemn books.

2. Nothing boosts book sales like condemnation by a church.

Who, after all, would have read Sister Margaret Farley’s “Just Love” if the Vatican hadn’t censured it this week? The Catholic Church delivered the nun’s treatise on Christian sexual ethics from the wilderness of obscurity into the promised land of fame. For any book publicist, such denunciation is an answer to a prayer. On Amazon’s Web site, “Just Love” immediately ascended from No. 142,982 to No. 16.

Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times:

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith… seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice…

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

In old-fashioned prose steeped in historical and global perspective, Sister Farley’s main argument is that justice needs to govern relationships. …

Taking on the Council of Trent and a church that has taken a stand against pleasure, Sister Farley asserts that procreation is not the only reason couples should have sex. Fruitfulness need not “refer only to the conceiving of children,” she writes. “It can refer to multiple forms of fruitfulness in love of others, care for others, making the world a better place for others” rather than just succumbing to “an égoisme à deux.”


This latest ignoble fight with a noble nun adds to the picture of a Catholic Church in a permanent defensive crouch, steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong.

h/t and read more at Friends of Jake.


Mary Hunt writes at Religion Dispatches:

A first-year graduate student could have handled the analysis in a week. S/he would have figured out that Dr. Farley was dealing with ethical method—how we frame and approach moral questions—not defending the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Grawemeyer Award committee that chose Margaret for that prestigious and generous prize ($200,000 is real money in the theological business) realized Margaret was doing an outstanding job as a moral theologian in the broad interreligious conversation that is now the gold standard in the field.

Vatican interlocutors, who obviously have no clue about such matters, only embarrass themselves by publishing their ignorance in six languages. They leave the distinct impression that they are oblivious to the fact that postmodern ethical analysis emerges from multi-disciplinary, multi-religious discussions grounded in concrete actions for justice.

A scholar of Margaret Farley’s stature must terrify the staff of the CDF. She is, after all, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School; a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America which gave her its highest award in 1992; as well as a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics. Dr. Farley holds 11 honorary degrees. In addition to 7 books, she has contributed more than 100 chapters and papers to the field. Her lengthy resume of lectures, workshops, and consultations attests to the fact that this modest woman of quiet confidence is simply an excellent scholar.

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